We’re all part of this very exclusive club, basically, and we’re all getting super well paid for being these brilliant, never-miss-a-trick, cool-cat characters and generally quipping and slinking around and never, ever over-acting. We’re smug, dude, but in a cool way. We’re invested in the story, of course, but not to the point of stepping outside of our respective frosty zones. We live on one side of the screen — the inside, the side you can’t get into — and the rest of you are out there, standing in lines, paying for tickets, chewing the popcorn and losing your shit over the smallest little things. We’re not saying we’re better than you are, but maybe we are. No, take that back! We’re all together in this. Same planet, same air, same dance. Heh-heh, ahem…whatever.
From Stephen J. Whitty Facebook post about Notorious, the 1946 Hitchcock film that he screened yesterday for a class at Montclair State College, but primarily about Leopoldine Konstantin, who played Claude Rains‘ icy, watchful, hawk-like Nazi mom:
“Konstantin had been a great star in early 20th century Europe. She worked for Max Reinhardt, appeared in the original Spring Awakening and the first film version of Lola Montez. Did an American stage tour in 1911. She got married, began a family and got divorced. Hitler came to power. She left for England, and lost her son in the blitz. Eventually she came to America. With her English uncertain and her fame receding, she took a job in a factory.
“Hitchcock, meanwhile, was casting Notorious. Who to play Rains’ domineering mother? Ethel Barrymore was suggested. Mildred Natwick’s name came up. But neither seemed right. Then one of the emigre actors already cast, Reinhold Schuenzel, said, ‘Do you know the perfect actress is already here in Los Angeles? And she needs a job.’
“Watching the film now, it’s hard to imagine anyone else in the role.
“Her best scene comes when Rains tells her that his new wife has betrayed him. First Konstantin sits up in bed. She smiles, slightly — it is so wonderful, isn’t it, to have one’s most evil thoughts about your daughter-in-law confirmed? Then she hears her son explain the details. And, very coolly, she reaches across to her nightstand, pulls a cigarette out of a box, and lights it.
“Six times I’ve hosted this film, and every time the crowd laughs.
“And I think it’s because, in that one moment, as she stabs the cigarette into her mouth tough-guy, Jimmy-Cagney style — Konstantin has told us everything we need to know about her character. She is unromantic. She is resolute. She is a thousand times fiercer than her son, and she will do whatever it takes to protect him. All that in the lighting of a cigarette.
“This is what great actors do. They find the tiniest moment, the smallest action, and they invest it with meaning and metaphor.”
Sony Pictures Classics will open David Crosby: Remember My Name, the A.J. Eaton–Cameron Crowe doc that premiered at last January’s Sundance Film Festival, on 7.19.19 limited. In New York and Los Angeles, I mean, with other nationwide bookings to follow.
If I was bunking in the NYC area, would I hump it down to Asbury Park on 4.27 for a special screening of this doc? Especially considering I’ve already seen it, had my picture taken with Crosby in Santa Barbara and blah blah? The honest answer is “yeah, I would probably would. Or at least maybe.” Because it’s indisputably one of the best 2019 films I’ve seen thus far, and arguably the best doc. Drive down on Friday night, stay for the weekend on in some Long Beach Island motel, hit a couple of other films at the Asbury Park Music & Film Festival, etc.
This allows me to re-post an Asbury Park recollection that I first posted in on 7.5.15:
One of the defining moments of my early childhood — my life, really — happened when I wasn’t quite three years old. It was a late summer evening, and my mother and I were roaming up and down the Asbury Park boardwalk. One of the highlights (in my mind at least) was the famous Asbury Park merry-go-round. We gradually made our way south about two miles, give or take. Then I somehow slipped my mother’s grasp and disappeared. Gone.
She freaked, of course. She found a couple of cops and asked for their help. They looked, searched, asked all the merchants…no luck. They finally made their way back to the merry-go-round and there I was — staring, bedazzled.
The incident put the fear of God into my parents. From then on they decided I had to be kept on a short leash and monitored very carefully. The result is that I began to feel that my life was being lived in a gulag, a police state. Rules, repression, “no”, time to go to bed at dusk, “because I said so,” “you’re too young,” etc.
Seymour Cassel, the creased and weathered character actor who was born middle-aged, and is primarily known for playing multiple roles for directors John Cassevetes and Wes Anderson, has passed on at age 84. Not a tragedy as he loved a long and robust life. It’s just that the journey ended. My problem, if you will, is that I never saw Cassel’s signature Cassevetes performance in Minnie and Moskowitz. My strongest recollection, for some reason, is his barber-shop father of Jason Schwartzman‘s Max Fischer in Rushmore.
Four years ago a 14 year-old named John Smith fell through the ice of Missouri’s Lake Saint Louise. He was underwater for 15 minutes. At the hospital he was clinically “dead” — no pulse, 88 degree temperature — for 45 minutes. But then God brought him back to life after his adoptive mom, Joyce Smith, begged for divine intervention.
Friendly Atheist Hemant Mehta suggests that “the ice cold water actually slowed John’s metabolism so much that it allowed him to survive a situation that might have otherwise killed him.” I for one support this hypothesis.
Given the market for faith-based entertainment, there’s a new film called Breakthrough — directed Roxann Dawson, produced by DeVon Franklin, released by Disney — about this episode, made for rightwing types who adore the idea of God stepping in and saving the day.
Excerpt from Owen Gleiberman‘s 4.8.19 Variety review: “On the surface, there’s no reason why a tale of mystical healing should inherently belong to either the conservative or liberal camp, especially given that the current leader of American conservative politics, Donald Trump, is a rage-fueled narcissistic demagogue who, measured by his words and deeds, is no more a Christian than he is a Martian.
“Yet the aspect of Breakthrough that makes it, spiritually and culturally, a movie of the Trump age is the literal-mindedness of its faith. The movie isn’t just an affirmation of Christian belief; it’s a sentimental celebration of never doubting. It says to its audience, ‘If your faith is strong enough, then you will be protected, no matter what.’ That’s an incredible reassurance, but it’s also an excuse — for following certain leaders wherever they take you. No matter what.”
Pete Buttigieg to Mike Pence: Check your rightwing faith convictions, give them a re-think. Or fold them five ways and put them where the moon don’t shine.
Excerpt: “The struggle is not over when transgender troops, ready to put their lives on the line for their country, have their careers threatened with ruin, one tweet at a time, by a commander in chief who himself pretended to be disabled” — i.e., fictitious bone spurs — “in order to get out of serving when it was his turn.”